Never, Ever Forget

The traveling Vietnam War Memorial came to the
Pacific Northwest a few summers ago.

We  had arrived home from Montana that afternoon,
but  knew we needed to summon up the energy
to give our kids a lesson in life, war, loss and pain.

We casually touched weapons that had been hauled
through dark, bug-infested, enemy-hiding jungles.

Weapons that had to kill before the handler was killed.

We grieved for all that suffered during the Viet Nam War.

As these men were talking,
my heart rejoiced that they were alive and well.

I get angry beyond reason
when I read about the treatment of the vets
when they finally returned home.

The war never really ended for them.

I wanted to throw my arms around the vets
and apologize for my country,
but I didn’t.
Instead,  I shyly smiled and prayed for them as I passed by,
unable to express what was truly bursting in my heart and mind.

At times I felt I shouldn’t intrude in others’ grief.

These were their sons and daughters, their friends, their spouses.

 Though the engraved names didn’t belong to anybody we knew,
I still cried,
because I felt the pain all around me.

I  wanted to throw myself down and sob out my heart,
but I didn’t.
I blinked back the tears, took pictures
and tried to share with my children the passion I felt over this monument.

These soldiers will never bring bouquets to spouses, mothers, or sweethearts.
Instead of life and love, the bouquets left for them smell of sorrow and death.

They are brought because pain makes people want to DO something.

Instead of caressing loved ones’ faces,
fingers only trace their names
etched into black, cold, lifeless marble.

Yet, everyone is thankful,
wonderfully thankful,
grief-strickenly thankful,
that at least there is something of the loved ones to touch.

Even if it is just a name

…etched into

……….cold

…………….black

………………lifeless

…………………….marble.

The shadows  on the marble are reminders
of the men and women that should have been standing there.

They estimate 58,000 lives were lost during this War.

For each life lost, dozens back home suffered
wounded hearts, empty lives and endless pain.

As with every war,
the lost of these young lives
left holes in generations.

Kids grew up without daddies,
fiances were never married,
mothers and fathers never became grandparents.

I was a kid during this war.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hayes,
pulled the roller shades down, turned off the lights,
and made us watch a documentary on the war.
I can still hear the clickety-click of the machine as she wound the film
through the reels and began playing the black and white movie.
Quickly bored, I was acting up and complaining so loudly,
she stopped the big-reeled machine and chewed me out
in front of all my classmates,
not even bothering to march me to the coat room.

She thought I should be paying attention
because, she passionately explained,
these were AMERICAN young men, people’s neighbors, people’s sons.

I remember my initial embarrassment for being singled out,
then the shame of my indifference.

 I share my passion and my compassion with my children,
hoping they’ll be influenced, as I was,
to  open their hearts and minds to the  suffering around them.

 

(Award Winning Photo By John Moore/Getty Images)

When I saw the picture of Mary McHugh
weeping on the grave of her fiance in Arlington National Cemetary,
I wept over my computer.

We’ll have holes in this generation, too.

But, maybe, we as a nation, will welcome home the vets
the way we should have in the 70’s.

The traveling, grim, marble memorial
should and can be the reminder we need
to keep history from repeating itself.

Welcome Home, Vets.

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5 Responses to Never, Ever Forget

  1. Jack May 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    And the Land…. of the …. Free.

  2. Kim Vandel May 30, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

    Well said.

  3. Jackie May 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm #

    I’m so grateful that our family has never been treated with anything other than respect and gratitude. I can’t imagine going through the pain of a deployment and then have to suffer all over again at the hands of our own countrymen. I feel so bad for the Vietnam vets and how they were treated. This was a fantastic post!

    • Momma Mindy May 31, 2012 at 12:47 am #

      Jackie, I’m so thankful to hear of the respect and gratitude your family has received. That’s why I think we need to understand history – so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past! Thanks for stopping by…

  4. mary mac June 1, 2012 at 6:38 am #

    Luke’s uncle’s name is on that wall. We were able to go to the memorial day service with his grandma this year and visit his uncles grave. It was wonderful to be able to share that with her. It was eye opening how all the service members at the memorial were in their 80’s, there are no young men stepping up to get involved. Hopefully we can do something about it. From being in the military I have such a huge amount of emotions and pride that always wells up in me during these events, but I always keep it in for some reason. Great post.
    P.s. I have your dryer balls fro Jessie, we will have to meet up sometime.
    Mary

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